Tagged with "adventure"
27 Apr
2016
Posted in: travel
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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016.

When anyone inquired where we were headed for spring break this year, I answered northern Arizona, which translated as Grand Canyon to everyone who asked. While Grand Canyon was on our list of stops over break, it was just one of several. The Flagstaff area is home to three national monuments, all worth a visit.

hikers on the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon

Our tour of the Flagstaff monuments began with Walnut Canyon National Monument. The canyon is home to ancient cliff dwellings for the Sinagua people. We’ve visited several cliff dwelling sites during our travels. I’m always amazed as I stand on the rim of a canyon looking across the expanse viewing dwellings in the shear face of a canyon wall. I cannot fathom living in a cliff dwelling or what that life entailed. The Sinagua people lived for more than 100 years between 1125 and 1250 in Walnut Canyon utilizing dry-farming techniques to grow crops like corn.

Two visitors standing near cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon

cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon

Sinagua is Spanish for “without water.” During our visit, I couldn’t imagine any crops growing at the top of the limestone canyon. The Island Trail is a short loop that drops into the canyon giving visitors views of 25 cliff dwellings. There are drop-offs on the trail, but nothing that made me feel unsafe hiking with kids. The trail gives visitors up-close views of dwellings. We also enjoyed spotting camouflaged dwellings across the canyon. Cliff dwellings spark great conversation with our kids, mainly questions of how and why — as in, “How would you get to and from the dwelling?” and “Why would you live in the wall of a canyon?” It’s a lifestyle that’s hard to understand given the modern life we lead.

view of Sunset Crater Naional Monument

children hiking on lava flow trail Sunset Crater

From Walnut Canyon, we drove north of Flagstaff to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Around Flagstaff several dormant volcanoes dot the landscape. Sunset Crater is an otherworldly landscape. It’s similar to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, but on a much smaller scale. Craters of the Moon is a favorite National Park Service entity for our family. Visitors who enjoy Sunset Crater should make a trip to Idaho for a much grander version.

yellow flower growing in lava flow Sunset Crater

family photo in front of lava flow Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater is home to ponderosa pines and lava flow at the base of Sunset Crater Volcano covering the landscape with black rocks. The lava flow helps visitors to imagine the devastation the volcano unleashed on the area now known as Flagstaff. Sunset Crater Volcano erupted roughly 900 years ago which makes it geologically young. I enjoy the contrast of the frail flowers attempting to thrive in the stark lava flow as well as the contrast with the green of the rolling hills and the blue sky. The landscape is dynamic.

trail leading to a Wupatki pueblo ruin

A loop road from Sunset Crater takes visitors to Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is one of those National Park Service places that we’ve heard nothing about from any person we know, but saw it on a map and added it to our travel list. I left Wupatki thoroughly impressed with the rich, diverse history of northern Arizona.

visitors walking toward 100-room pueblo at Wupatki

Wupatki is known for its pueblos, including one that had about 100 rooms. Several pueblos dot the landscape in the monument. This was our first experience with pueblos. The ways in which ancient people lived and survived is mind-boggling to me. Using what nature has handy to build living quarters, whether that be cliff faces or mud, and working the land to coax food for survival is such a different concept from what we live today. There were times the people of Wupatki would need to walk 10 miles for water and weren’t guaranteed they’d find any at the end of the journey.

sunset on a Wupatki ruin

The 100-room pueblo was our favorite spot in Wupatki. The ruin gives an idea of the former grandeur of the massive pueblo. The pueblo also has a ceremonial ball court with a round wall establishing the court’s perimeter. The most unique part of our visit to Wupatki for the kids was a natural blow hole situated near the ball court. The hole looks like a square bench with an opening in the middle. Air either blows out of the hole or sucks back in the hole depending on the barometric pressure. A ranger told us the blow hole was not to be missed, and she was correct. Park rangers are amazing resources. I wasn’t prepared for the force the air blew out of the hole. I was expecting a breeze and found wind. Our kids enjoyed taking turns having the “wind” float their baseball hats or send their hair sticking straight up from their scalps. It’s one of the strangest things we’ve come across on our travels.

visitor at Wupatki National Monument blow hole

We enjoyed a fantastic sunset at Wupatki with the sun illuminating ruins and enriching the color of the stone. The sky became purple and pink as the day faded to night and another history lesson came to a close.

 


 
Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park
By     |    Apr 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. We spent years talking about visiting Grand Canyon National Park. We couldn’t ever peg down a good time of year to visit. There were other national parks ranked higher on our wish list. Excuses piled for why we never chose the iconic American spot. This year was the... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park
By     |    Mar 14, 2016
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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. My husband and I spent 44 hours this weekend without children enjoying the tail-end of winter in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The start of 2016 has been rough, and we needed to regroup. Snowshoeing in the park was the most peaceful I’ve felt in months.... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Arches National Park
By     |    Feb 5, 2016
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Take a Trip: Arches National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. This winter is relentless. There’s been snow on the ground for months, and it’s part of the permanent forecast these days. You know there’s a lot of snow when your son’s Nordic ski team can’t practice because they aren’t able to get up the mountain. It’s that... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Mammoth Cave National Park
By     |    Jan 25, 2016
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Take a Trip: Mammoth Cave National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. We had a bucket list of places we knew had to be included on our driving route for our Epic Road Trip to Florida last summer. One of those near the top of the list was Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. We’ve visited several National Park... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Capitol Reef National Park
By     |    Jan 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Capitol Reef National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. Capitol Reef National Park is located in a remote area of Utah. We visited several years ago (March 2011) over spring break and essentially had the park to ourselves with only a handful of other visitors to share the over 240,000 acres. I’m a sucker for rocky... [Read More]

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5 Reasons to Visit Key West
By     |    Oct 13, 2015
Posted in: travel     |    1 Comment

5 Reasons to Visit Key West

When we started planning our epic road trip to Florida, I knew we had to visit Key West. I’m drawn to superlative places…the biggest, tallest, longest, farthest. Key West is the southernmost point in the United States. For that reason alone, I had to visit the quirky destination. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would enjoy the atmosphere in the Keys. Southernmost Point — I knew I would regret not trekking through the entire state of Florida to stand... [Read More]

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Pallet Fest 2015
By     |    Sep 1, 2015
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Pallet Fest 2015

Cities and I have a precarious relationship. I like the idea of visiting a city, but inevitably, the closer we are to a city the more my desire to visit fades. Traffic makes me antsy. Crowds make me anxious. The abundant choices are overwhelming. I can only handle a city for a long weekend before I have to search for open spaces and less traffic. I do enjoy the novelty a city offers. I crave the unique and free-spirited. I... [Read More]

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Loneliest Road Leads to Great Basin National Park
By     |    Aug 20, 2015
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Loneliest Road Leads to Great Basin National Park

There were no other travelers on the “The Loneliest Road in America,” US-50 in Nevada. We drove miles and miles without seeing other vehicles. There were no dilapidated buildings hinting at past habitation. It was just us on an adventure to Great Basin National Park with rolling hills and sagebrush as our companions. I’ve lived in Wyoming for almost four decades. I’m a sucker for the open road. I like roads rural with few people and quaint Norman Rockwell towns... [Read More]

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Partaking in Risky Behavior
By     |    Aug 2, 2015
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Partaking in Risky Behavior

Apparently, I’m a risk-taker. Each summer, for seven years, we’ve welcomed a visiting Challenger Sports soccer coach in town for a British soccer camp. The coaches we’ve hosted are young men between the ages of 18-23. They need a place to call home for seven days. This week during camp, a mother I don’t know wanted to talk about hosting. More precisely, she wanted to talk about how negligent I was being. I was asked if I thought I was... [Read More]

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Walt Disney World: Star Wars Weekend
By     |    Jul 23, 2015
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Walt Disney World: Star Wars Weekend

A few years back, it came to my attention that Walt Disney World holds Star Wars Weekends annually in May and June. Our boys were obsessed with Star Wars at the time. I took Jedis to the grocery store with me and forced Stormtroopers to remove their helmets for lunch. Their book choices and LEGO sets revolved around Star Wars. I watched YouTube videos from Star Wars Weekends and knew if we were ever to visit Walt Disney World, it... [Read More]

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Home from Summer Camp
By     |    Jul 18, 2015
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Home from Summer Camp

I answered the phone this afternoon and was greeted with, “Hi Mom. I missed you.” It was the first time in six days we had any communication from our oldest who was at Boy Scout summer camp, and he had missed me. He missed all of us, but let’s focus on the part where he missed ME. I had to keep myself from crying tears of joy and relief. I’m such an emotional sap. He was full of stories from... [Read More]

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